The most significant event for equality in recent memory – and it wasn’t the president’s endorsement of marriage

Before somebody starts yelling at me, let me just say that I’m not diminishing the significance of President Obama’s historic endorsement. It matters. A lot. Go read Andrew Sullivan’s cover essay in this week’s Newsweek for a good summary. “To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity —and the humanity of all gay Americans — was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview.”

But, as a measure of how far the mainstream has actually shifted, nothing beats this much less reported, but must-read document. As Sullivan points out, this is the GOP establishment addressing, bluntly, the GOP establishment. The warning from “highly respected Republican pollster” Jan van Lohuizen really couldn’t be more factual and dispassionate about the situation they are now facing:

In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).

And this is what that looks like graphically:

We often hear about how this shift in public opinion is a generational one, to which opponents of equality typically respond that as the young people who now support marriage equality age and start families, they will become more conservative and see the error of their ways. That may be a comforting thought to those who bear no responsibility for Republican strategy, but in fact:

2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position [emphasis added].

The next item shows how out of touch the typical Republican elected official is with actual Republican public opinion, when you consider their legislative behavior (I’m talking about you, Virginia “Family” Foundation sycophants):

3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians. These include majority Republican support for:

a. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
b. Protections against bullying and harassment
c. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
d. Right to visit partners in hospitals
e. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
f. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

These are not marginal majorities, either, but overwhelming ones. Another Republican pollster (Fabrizio) found in 2006 that nearly 80% of Virginia Republicans supported employment nondiscrimination measures, for example. Here van Lohuizen furnishes some talking points to get the GOP back on track:

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”

Other thoughts / Q&A: Follow up to questions about affirmative action:

“This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

So, equal rights are not “special rights” after all? No kidding.

Why public attitudes might be changing:

“As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

As we’ve been saying pretty much forever, LGBT people simply need to live our lives with honesty and integrity, and tell our stories. Reality wins.

Conservative fundamentals:

“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.

Exactly. And although he doesn’t say it explicitly, marriage equality is also a fundamentally conservative position. If you want to encourage in people the opposite of personal responsibility, stability, commitment and sacrifice, make it difficult or impossible for them to marry and have a family. The fact that so many of us have gone ahead and done these things anyway, in spite of the obstacles created by alleged “conservatives,” only underscores the fact that the need for family and intimacy is a powerful human drive. Again, reality wins.

Will GOP operatives listen? I’m not holding my breath. Infected by cartoonish figures like Dick Black and Mike Farris, and with its public policy agenda written by the Virginia “Family” Foundation on the basis of an equally cartoonish vision of Christianity, Virginia Republicans are racing full throttle in the opposite direction. At best, they can see the writing on the wall and respond by trying to obscure their pre-modern positions, as Dick Black did in his most recent campaign. This is only subterfuge, not a correction of past wrongs. And an explicit correction of those past wrongs is the only thing that will ensure a future for what is rapidly becoming known as the anti-reality party.

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3 Responses to The most significant event for equality in recent memory – and it wasn’t the president’s endorsement of marriage

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